Public weighs in on superintendent search

By July 1, the South Lane School District (SLSD) will be on its third superintendent in less than a year. 

During a special meeting of the South Lane school board on Thursday March 8, the board announced that acting superintendent Kyle Tucker will not be applying for the interim superintendent position posted earlier this week. Current superintendent Krista Parent is set to retire on June 30. 

Thursday’s meeting was aimed at giving the community the opportunity to weigh in on the qualities and qualifications the board adopts for the interim superintendent search. At a separate meeting in February, the board made a motion to begin the search for an interim superintendent who would be in place by July 1 of this year and remain in the position through June 30 of 2019. Simultaneously, the board would move toward hiring a long-term superintendent who would be hired for the 2019-2020 school year. 

Approximately 25 people attended Thursday’s meeting including at least 10 individuals who work for South Lane School District. Heather Bridgens, principal of Bohemia Elementary School, said she would like qualities such as sincerity, transparency and trust to be considered as well as an individual who was dedicated to teaching “the whole child.” Bridgens' top suggested qualities were echoed by South Lane Mental Health’s Valeria Clarke, who also suggested someone with experience in trauma-informed education, and fellow SLSD employee Ricardo Flores who added support and understanding of Measure 98 and internships to the list. Other qualities suggested included the ability to delegate, responsive to complaints, a focus on academics rather than athletics and an individual with experience with districts “in crisis.”

In January, controversy surrounding Parent came to a head when media reports indicated she may have written an anonymous letter given to the board in August. The letter came after accusations surfaced concerning Parent’s personal life and a subsequent investigation found she had not violated district policy or state law. The school board announced Parent’s retirement on Jan. 16. 

Since the announcement, the board has focused on what it describes as “healing” and put on Thursday’s meeting—which board chair Alan Baas described as ‘historic’ and requested that it be videotaped--as part of the process. 

“They were adamant about this (community involvement),” said Steve Kelley of the Oregon School Board Association who ran the meeting and will be spearheading the interim superintendent search. The school board must go out to bid for a company to head the long-term superintendent search. 

The qualifications and qualities are part of the process in searching for an interim superintendent and are currently available on the school district’s website for public review. 

After receiving public comment on the qualifications and qualities, the board adopted a calendar that will see it screen applicants’ paperwork on April 2 in executive session, interview candidates in executive session on April 23 and approve the interim superintendent selection in an open meeting on April 30.

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